Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

28 May 2006

Slugs and Snail...

Yesterday my local biodiversity society ran a "Slugs and Snails" event. It was a bit of a wet day so attendance was down, but those that did turn up were shown a wide range of amazingly pretty slugs and snails. I can't deny that most people just wanted to kill them at the start of the event, but after the redoubtable Dr Chatfield had shown the various party tricks that they get up to, even some of the most ardent gardeners were in awe of the common British slugs and snails.

21 May 2006


Yesterday was the annual EuroVision Song Contents. As usual it's an utter pile of rubbish, but Terry Wogan's silly comments make it almost watchable.

There are three classes of song:

  • A badly written and sung love song in English
  • A novelty song, sung by a novelty band
  • An actual song, sung in the singer's native language

Most songs this year were very banal love songs, sung by skimpyly clad women, on a stage full of dancers. The winner was the Finnish novelty band, not a very good song but at least it wasn't a silly love song.

15 May 2006

Computers Too Hard To Use...

There is an interesting discussion on Slashdot Can Ordinary PC Users Ditch Windows for Linux?.

The problem with most of the comments is that they fail to take into account two key facts: most users don't know how to use/install Windows to start with and what they do know is often so illogical that they need to unlearn it to make sense of Linux/Unix/Mac.

It's in Microsoft's commercial interest to keep their user base ignorant, if people realised how much of a ride they were being taken for then they may not be so keen to pay out the huge sums to Microsoft every year for more old rope.

14 May 2006

Fork Phobia

While we can't all agree what the perfect operating system is, it's fair to say it's a *nix. The problem is UNIX™ forked into a whole collection of slightly different and slightly incompatible proprietary versions. These versions had to compete in the market place against both each other and non-UNIX operating systems.

If vendor "A" had a good idea, vendor "B" could only copy it after in was in the market place, and any ideas that vendor B was working on could not take into account A's innovations until after the fact. This made developing Unix expensive and slower than it should have been. It also created a whole raft of variants, non of which were perfect.

Over time many weaker Unixen died and with them died millions of dollars of wasted investments and some brilliant ideas. Eventually only a handful of Unixen survived, but alas the non-Unix had gained a strangle hold on everything that wasn't Unix and was slowly and inexorably eating into the Unix ecosystem.

Quietly out of nowhere GNU/Linux and open source arrived. It looks like UNIX, it tastes like UNIX, but it isn't UNIX. The non-Unix world said it would fork just like Unix had, and this would kill it. GNU/Linux didn't fork and now after more than a decade, open-source software is inexorably eating up the proprietary software ecosystem.

Unlike closed source UNIX, open source Linux and open source projects in general don't fork. People disagree, projects split, but because the source of every splinter is open, good ideas from one project/splinter can still easily cross over to another project. Open source projects breed like sexually reproducing organisms, whereas closed source projects are more akin to asexual organisms, this gives open source projects a significant evolutionary advantage - open source is faster as good ideas are easily exchanged. While there is a short term advantage to asexual reproduction, just as there is a short term advantage to proprietary development, ultimately there is a longer term advantage to sex and open source development.

There is No such thing as forward-slash

I do wish people would stop saying “forward-slash” on tv when they read out a URL (sic.).

The slash (aka solidus, oblique, virgule, or stroke) is a perfectly normal English punctuation mark with a long history, probably dating back to Roman times.

On sane computer operating systems, the slash is the directory separator in path structures. As the world wide web is based on Unix, the path separators in URIs also uses a slash.

The “backslash” is a modern invention, dating back to 1960. It was created by taking a slash and reversing it, hence the name backslash or reverse solidus. On a sane operating system the symbol has various minor uses, most notably to escape the following character. Annoyingly Microsoft chose to use it as the directory separator symbol in a path statement.

Though Microsoft's various broken operating systems are of minor importance in the scheme of things, they are the dominant client operating system that most people have used. Microsoft's illogical use of back-slash, has no doubt contributed confusion in their generally poorly skilled user base. For some reason people have started to call the slash forward-slash, especially in the context of a URI. What's really strange is that it doesn't help, people still need to be told which way the stroke goes...

11 May 2006

DHTML Woes...

After struggling for a while to fix a DHTML bug a co-blogger suggested I try out Joe Hewitt's FireBug to help see what is going on in Firefox. I've long used Chris Pederick's Web Developer Extension for developing web pages but it's only partially helpful for debugging. Now I have both installed, Firefox is a really fantastic developer/debugging tool for DHTML.

After getting things to work in Firefox, I then tested in Opera and Konqueror, where it works too. Naturally IE doesn't get it right, so a quick Google search produced a nice solution - it's yet another well known IE defect. Trying to debug in IE is as bad as trying to develop with IE - not worth the effort. It's normally quicker to write to the standard, test on Firefox, Opera and Konqueror/Safari and finally test on IE. When it doesn't work on IE, a Google search for the well known defect in IE is normally all you need to do.

01 May 2006

Rhubarb and Orange Marmalade

Today it was the French style jam recipe. By the time I'd finished I had decided it's really a marmalade rather than a plain jam.

  • 1Kg diced rhubarb
  • ½Kg oranges (approx. 4)
  • 1½Kg sugar
  • 250ml water
  • the juice of one lemon

As before soak the chopped rhubarb overnight with an equal weight of sugar and the juice of the lemon. Make a syrup from the water and the remaining sugar. Wash the oranges, and slice them whole very fine (no more than 3mm think) - you will need a very sharp knife. Put the sliced oranges in the syrup and heat until the orange peel starts to go translucent.

Add the sugar/rhubarb and lemon juice mixture to the oranges, and bring to a boil in a jam pan. Continue to boil until it reaches the jamming point. Makes 6x370g pots. Allow it to stand for a week to reach full flavour after bottling before eating.

It's very marmalade like, so I may next time reduce the amount of orange to make a stronger rhubarb flavour.